Sunday, August 08, 2010

the loud unsubtle woes of identity

Mahesh Manjrekar's Astitva is loaded with too many Bollywood clichés, too much bad staging and hammy performances putting banshees to shame to be convincing or competent enough. A simple premise of the effect of an extra-marital affair on the family could have interpreted effectively with a judicious choice of dialogue, staging and music. Manjrekar unfortunately employs elements that might work better in Marathi mainstream theatre but not in the world of edited film. Employing the familiar Bollywood trope of non-diegetic songs only makes matters worse. The result is an overlong exercise in loud drama and unsubtle quietude that might appeal only to the popcorn-chewing hoi polloi, who might welcome the break from incongruous breaks into foreign lands for a session of tush-and-armpit aerobics.

The film opens with Mohnish Behl struggling to look competent as an old man (with an ill-fitting wig and obvious gratuitous makeup) as a song in a 7-beat cycle assaults the speakers. Things move from Hubli to Pune two years later and things unfold through a combination of domestic detective work, flashbacks laced with songs owing a debt to puriyaa dhanashrii and to.Dii. You can barely stomach a chuckle when a person named Malhar (Mohnish Behl) breaks into a rain song. Tabu and Sachin Khedekar wrestle with the dross about them and the piffle dialogue sheets handled to them, but cannot save this enterprise. Smita Jaykar and Ravindra Mankani (who, with the goatee, does a better job as a Willem Dafoe lookalike). Namrata Shirodkar in a "very special appearance" (मैं computer science की graduate हूँ; फिलहाल एक computer firm में काम करती हूँ) cannot do much in the sea of dulled senses. Instead of writing to exploit the audio-visual medium and to create some sense of dramatic tension, Manjrekar chooses to write "shocking" dialogue (when was the last time you heard someone talk about the crimson curse?) and background music that refuses to yield a moment of intelligent silence.

The result of all this and a misplaced vertigo zoom is an exercise that is as subtle as a blunt hammer underscored by the misery in the department of subtitles (adultery and debauchery become synonyms; there's something called "French leave"; and Tabu's character becomes a "wanton whore"). The cherry on this cake of compost is the unskippable content on the DVD: be prepared to sit through an unskippable ad for followed by unskippable ads for Zee Movies and Zee Gold. Every commercial dodo wants to assert its own identity before you get the real deal. [september 16, 2009]

No comments:

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.